Dubai: Emirates, Etihad Airways and Gulf Air experienced delays on Tuesday morning after their passenger check-in and reservation system crashed.

The passenger check-in and reservation system, designed by Sabre, experienced a worldwide outage at around 8am local time and lasted for two hours.

Sabre software is used by more than 300 airlines around the world and some 100 airports worldwide were affected by the outage. Sabre is commonly used among international airlines, including Virgin Australia, United Airlines and American Airlines.

A spokeswoman for Bahrain carrier Gulf Air said the airline’s booking reservation system and passenger check-in services “experienced technical difficulties” on Tuesday, resulting in some delay.

The airline said it was able to minimise delays by manually checking in passengers until the two systems came on. Gulf Air said the two affected systems were offline for two hours.

“Seven flights were affected, with delays ranging from 12 minutes to just over an hour,” the Gulf Air spokeswoman said.

Booking glitches

Customers were also unable to book tickets online on Gulf Air with the outage also impacting the airline’s online reservation system.

The spokeswoman said the airline received increasing calls from customers trying to book tickets “due to the airline’s main reservations system being offline.”

Gulf Air was able to contact affected reservations after the system came back online.

Etihad Airways released a statement on its website on Tuesday morning that said the airline was experiencing some delays as a result of a reservation and check-in system failure that “affected many other airlines.”

“Sabre is experiencing a system issue,” Sabre said in a tweet shortly after the crash brought check-in systems worldwide to a grinding halt. “Our technology team is working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation.”

Manual check-in

Australian media reported that Etihad was operating a manual check-in for flights on its network.

In addition, Sabre is used by major third-party online travel search and ticketing portals, including Travelocity. Budget carrier JetBlue and the giant American Airlines flight network were also impacted by the computer glitch.

Virgin Australia, a code-share partner of Etihad, was also reported to have been manually checking in passengers.

Etihad later released an update on its website when the booking reservation systems and check-in services were restored. “The problem, which caused some delays across the network, has now been resolved and operations are returning to normal,” the statement said.

The airline apologised for the outage. “Etihad Airways apologises for the temporary inconvenience caused.”

Etihad Airways, who declined to say how many flights or passengers were affected by the delays, said it normally operates 204 scheduled flights in and out of Abu Dhabi on Tuesdays.

A spokesman for Etihad in Australia was reported to have said he didn’t expect the outage to cause a significant impact on operations.

Impact on Emirates

An Emirates spokesperson was able to confirm that the Dubai-based airline was impacted by the outage.

“The Emirates Group was temporarily affected by the outage, but the impact on our operations overall has been relatively limited… Sabre is only one of a number of IT partners supporting our business and the outage was not prolonged,” the Emirates spokesperson said.

The Dubai-based carriers uses Mercator check-in software, a similar product with an interface to Sabre’s scheduling technology.

Virgin Atlantic, who operates a once daily Dubai-to-London Heathrow flight, was not affected by the outage. A spokesperson for the airline said the 11.15am flight left on schedule and that there were no delays at check-in.

Dubai-based flydubai and Sharjah-based airline Air Arabia were not affected by the computer outage.